Jennifer Hale defied the odds. When she was born with cystic fibrosis (CF) in 1972, the average life expectancy of individuals with CF was 15 years. But Jennifer lived to see her 43rd birthday before she passed away in December 2015 (while waiting for a lung transplant). From an early age, Jennifer exhibited a contagious zest for life and unwavering strength & determination in working through whatever issues she faced. Along the way, she competed in sports, excelled at academics, developed strong friendships, graduated from high school and college, worked for a global consulting firm, and married the love of her life. Jennifer’s credo, in her own words, was:
Be the light that stays on even in the darkest of moments. Keep fighting your battle with a light heart, a smile on your face, and a spark in your eye. This will feed your soul and spirit and give you strength to battle on.
After she died, Jennifer’s parents – Donna and Evan Michael Codell – wanted to tell the story of Jennifer’s life so that people could meet Jennifer and come to appreciate the very special qualities she embodied. There was a major problem, however, in that Donna and Evan were not natural writers themselves. Also, they were facing a significant constraint in that Evan was dealing with late Stage 4 lung cancer, and his time on earth was expected to be limited.*
Wordsmith Associates agreed to step in to help Donna and Evan put their story together quickly. We used a rapid prototype process for developing and conducting a series of interviews and using the interview transcripts to create the editable foundation of the story. The outstanding result, complete with family photographs and items handwritten by Jennifer, is a 2017 publication called, There Are No Alligators in Heaven! A Family’s Perspectives on Surviving the Unrelenting Savagery of Cystic Fibrosis.
There Are No Alligators in Heaven! is a touching story of an unheralded hero. It is a first-hand account of Jennifer and how she and her parents – united in undying love and commitment – followed their instincts, pieced together solid guiding principles, and took decisive action, some counter to prevailing medical practices of the time, to wrestle the alligators of cystic fibrosis day after day after day. The book features Jennifer’s own writings, along with the personal accounts of her parents, presented in an easy, engaging conversational style. The story that the three of them tell together is one of optimism, courage, and hope that inspires others to find joy in life and to never give up the fight – whatever the battle happens to be.
* – Note: The last interview with Evan Michael Codell occurred on December 12, 2016. Evan passed away on December 14, 2016.